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A Shambles Ramble: Hong Kong (Part 5)

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

The other day, after watching a report on the state of Hong Kong after the new laws on “sedition” were introduced, I was hit with the realisation that my trip there in 2017 was certainly my last to a “free” Hong Kong. Whenever I go back, if I go back, the atmosphere will never be the same as it was when I visited. With this in mind, I have decided to publish the parts of my diary concerned with Hong Kong here, that anyone who failed to visit before the bell tolled might catch a glimpse of how it was.

21st December:

I’ve woken up in a bleak grey landscape where everything is slightly rubbish. GB. London. The same flat I first heard Turks and Caicos mentioned back when I was preparing for my radio show several months ago. In that respect, it’s quite a neat place to start wrapping this all up. Not yet though. Need to finish up a few things first.

So where did I leave off? Oh right, Nicole. She let me look in her notebook and I was very surprised to see how much had been packed into such little space. Most of it was writing, but almost everything was complimented by drawings of various levels of detail. I saw one large head of what I assumed to be a phoenix, until she corrected me and said it was a ‘bearded vulture’ instead. It looked radical; I totally understand why she wants a tattoo of it on her shoulder.

Stationary shops are one of those places (oh dad made me tea how nice!) which you never really go to, but when you do you end up spending way more time there than you originally intended to. We spent about 40 minutes fiddling with pens and painting products before we finally pulled ourselves away, and then we went back to my hostel so I could drop off the stuff I had. I was already ready to go sleep and the day had barely started. Nicole, however, wouldn’t let the jacket go, and eventually dragged me back to the clothes shop to force me to buy it. “It’s on sale!” she cried. I wasn’t in the right state of mind to argue, and she said she saw a scarf that would look nice on me, so I’ll call it forced coercion. But I ended up with a very nice jacket and a scarf so large it can double as a picnic blanket. I put them on immediately and then after a swift farewell and promise of future meetings I left to get lunch with Athena down in Causeway Bay.

I decided to walk from Admiralty to wake myself up a bit, which meant I got to see a bit more of the city. The part of Hong Kong around Admiralty is really neat because all of the walkways are elevated above street level, as there’s no space for them otherwise. Trying to cross is a pain without using them, as Oleg and I found out on our walk to Victoria Peak. That’s why all the shopping centres act as throughways for pedestrians because it’d be a nightmare if everyone were on the pavement. Causeway Bay kind of snuck up on me, actually; the streets went from small, kind of dingy restaurants and drycleaners, to glittering skyscrapers and open-plan coffee shops. If I hadn’t got lost on my way, I would’ve been happier to explore a bit, but as it was I was late and getting worried messages from Athena. When finally we met, if anything I felt overdressed; Athena had swapped the suit for a comfortable hoodie and was glad to see I survived the walk over. We went for Korean food, which was amazing again. She was really sorry to hear how I hadn’t enjoyed the food here (minus the dumplings I’d had for breakfast every day). She’d never heard of someone coming here and having a bad food experience. When I told her of the slight unease of the place too, about the things that had dulled my enjoyment, she was equally shocked. I’ve just been really unlucky, it seems. As a resident, she’s never experienced any of those issues. Lucky me I guess. She made me laugh when she started getting wistful about unemployment and how upset she was she’d got a job straightaway. I understand where she’s coming from, but it still sounded like she was going “oh god I’m so employable I can’t help but get a job!”

I’m about to leave to surprise everyone back in Alton. Guess I ran out of time to catch up all the way. Hopefully it won’t sound too weird if I keep jumping around the timeline.

24th December:

Here follows a brief account of the final days of my trip, from what I remember of it this far on.

The last little bit with Athena was very cute. After finishing lunch, we went to her office (a huge office complex full of massive empty corridors and windows replacing all the exterior walls) to get some bubble tea. Well, actually neither of us got bubble tea in the end, but that didn’t matter much because the ginger tea I had was marvellous. I like how ginger makes you feel warm when it’s cold. It was even better because the weather was already warm, so that was nice.

I’ve found myself thinking more so after saying goodbye to her about my own status as a grown-up. It’s very weird to see my friends working in big offices on things so unsung in the grand scheme. Is that all I’ll end up being too? A cog in the system? The oil that greases the wheel? No offence to Athena of course, I’m merely reflecting on what individuals sacrifice to become part of a whole. If I become an office worker, how would I view myself in that seat? Would I dismiss the monotony as a means towards future aspirations? Would it be a stumbling block or a steppingstone? Athena only found herself working there accidentally and doesn’t hope to be there long. Does that mean she’d leave tomorrow for that reason alone, or only once something better appears? Is her responsibility still to herself, or to the role she now performs? Similarly, now I’m home again, can I afford to continue entirely selfish pursuits like writing and travelling, or do I have a greater responsibility to my future wellbeing and not starving to death? It’s all a bit messy right now.

Anyway, when I got back I was totally exhausted and died on my bed for a few hours. Later, I joined the guys I’d gone out with the day before and we played some more cards. I got my guitarlele out and we all tried to sing some Oasis together, but because the instrument was tuned higher than standard guitar tuning none of us were singing in key. It was really fun though. Philip and I began to plan for the airport journey the next morning. Eventually we settled on a taxi around 5:30 in the morning, so we could at least get a few hours of sleep. Final goodbyes were said, and for the last time on the trip I went to bed in a hostel. For the final time too, I was mostly kept awake by snores, Philip among them. Eventually the hour came, and after two Ubers failed to materialise and a brief panic over whether a bus would be faster or slower, we were in a taxi and at the airport in half an hour. I still need to pay him back for that, actually. Another hour later and that was that – I was driving home for Christmas, except I was flying home as a passenger. The whole day was spent in transit. Although I arrived at Gatwick at 6:30pm, I’d been travelling for about 20 hours by the time I made it back to dad’s. He welcomed me with a steak pie, baked beans, and new potatoes. I ate as much as I could before having a shower (dad secretly made the bed whilst I was doing that) and sleeping in a familiar place for the first time since August.

I wonder what will happen to this thing. Maybe I should type it up, edit it into a ‘best of’ collection for the most interesting flow of events. Fictionalise it at the same time so I don’t have to worry about getting people’s permissions to publish stuff about them. New Year’s project maybe? Funny how this is what I’m choosing to do on Christmas Eve, noting irrelevant nonsense down for my own amusement. Tomorrow’s entry had better be good.

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